Natalie Fox is one of those people. She is a surf and yoga teacher in the Algarve, who has just finished her master’s in sustainability, a topic she is very passionate about.
While I was talking to her, I learned a lot about what sustainability actually means and how difficult it is to achieve results in this area, as it is much more than one simple issue. It is a web of many issues that all depend on each other and to reach the goal of sustainable living, would mean to change the way our world works.

Natalie explains to me that “traditionally, education and subjects have been compartmentalised, where you have science or maths or psychology. But when it came to the 70’s and the 80’s and more modern approaches to the problems that we are facing in the world, scientists realised that we needed to be able to go across subjects, to be able to understand these increasingly complex issues. “For instance climate change, is so complex, and nobody has got the answer of how we are going to solve that, but at least with sustainability we know that we need to be able to go through the public, through behaviour, through policy change and also through financial systems that need to change as well.”

To make this easier to understand, Natalie suggests looking at something called “Doughnut economics”. It is a visual model shaped like a doughnut, hence the name, showing the balance needed between social and planetary boundaries.
Scientists have created a projection about what would happen if we were to continue to use resources the way we are doing currently and that is why every year now we have earth overshoot day, which is the day on which we have used up all of the resources within the year that is sustainable. This year, due to the pandemic and lockdowns, earth overshoot day happened on 22 August, during the years before that it would usually be around the end of July or at the beginning of August.

For Natalie’s master’s degree in sustainability, she had to do a work placement. She said she “wanted to learn more about the process of carbon off-setting and what we could do to reduce carbon emissions.” She went to work with a social enterprise based in Portugal, called Mossy Earth, which is focused on rewilding, by not only planting trees but also increasing biodiversity.
“If we are to focus on creating more natural reserves that has to include biodiversity. This is the building block of life, things that are different interacting with each other.” She also mentioned that “this is where you start to get into politics in Portugal and the eucalyptus plantations, which is monocropping, and that just ravages any sort of natural ecosystem in those areas and the surrounding areas.” More or less everyone that lives in Portugal already knows that eucalyptus trees are also an issue when it comes to fires, so Mossy Earth goes to the areas that have been destroyed by the flames and replants different native species.

Natalie tells me that their latest project though is to basically do the same thing underwater. In cooperation with a SeaForester, their mission, according to their website, is “to restore the forgotten forests in our ocean” by testing different kelp seeding methods along Portugal’s coastline, from Viana do Castelo, to Peniche, Sines and Sagres. “They are reforesting underwater, in the sense of seaweed and kelp, which are amazing at sequestering carbon. The ocean produces at least 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe, so it´s really integrated into the carbon cycle. Mangroves, sea grass meadows and kelp forests are the three big marine ecosystems that are really important for sequestering carbon, but they are also being decimated way quicker than, for example, rainforests.”

Pollution and rising sea temperatures, among other factors, have caused the collapse of many marine ecosystems, and because the deteriorating underwater environments are out of sight for most people, far too little attention is being paid to them. On SeaForester´s website I read that seaweed, one of the fastest growing plants in the world, can actually reverse the acidification of our oceans, reduce coastal erosion and build up fish populations, all while capturing carbon five times more efficiently than tropical forests.

“In terms of planetary boundaries, the biodiversity loss, air pollution, climate change and land conservation could all be tackled with rewilding and renaturing projects, it is a really good way to cover a number of issues with just one solution,” says Natalie Fox.